This Year’s Super Bowl Filled 70,000 Plates on the Path to Zero Waste

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This post is a follow-up to my “AZ I See It” column in the Arizona Republic on January 26, 2015.

This year during the Super Bowl, the first “Kick the Waste” campaign took place at Super Bowl Central—the 12-block area in the heart of downtown Phoenix where thousands enjoyed parties and live music in the week leading up to the championship game. The city was host to quite a party on Superbowl Sunday. Fans gathered for good football and good food, whether they joined in the downtown celebrations, tailgated outside the stadium, or ordered from vendors in the stands.

All too often, what’s not consumed goes to waste. Every year Americans throw away more food than any other type of waste — almost 35 million tons — and much of it is still edible. The “Kick the Waste” campaign — a collaboration between the city of Phoenix, nonprofit food rescue organization Waste Not, the National Football League, the Arizona Super Bowl Host Committee, vendors and fans — worked to make sure that any leftover food was shared with those who needed a good meal, and any waste was disposed of in the most beneficial way for the environment.

The results are in from this tremendous effort, and they definitely scored a touchdown:

  • The total amount of edible food donated from the Super Bowl-related events was 69,260 pounds—enough to feed 70,000 people.
  • 73 percent of unused food was diverted through donation, recycling and composting at the Super Bowl festivities.
  • More than 120,000 aluminum beverage containers were recycled from Super Bowl Central. They weighed 3,750 pounds.

The impact doesn’t stop there. This campaign was used to test out ways for Phoenix to collect and process food waste from its residents. The city is learning from it to design a state-of-the-art composting facility at its transfer station for yard waste and food scraps.

San Francisco is already gearing up to host Super Bowl 50 festivities, and it’s got Zero Waste Event requirements already in place. The new Levi’s Stadium is packed with green features – including a green roof, water reclamation and farm-to-table dining. Outside of the Super Bowl, sports teams across the nation are collaborating with us to green the game, and almost 800 sports teams, stadiums, universities, grocery stores and a range of companies and organizations join our Food Recovery Challenge to prevent and reduce wasted food.

Congratulations to this year’s winners, the New England Patriots, and also to Phoenix and all those Super Bowl fans who kicked food waste out of the landfill and into the compost and recycling bins!

Jared Blumenfeld is the U.S. EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

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